MILTON VERMONT - A VERMONT SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE HAS ORDERED HUMANE DISPOSAL OF 2 ROTTWEILERS THAT VICIOUSLY ATTACKED PAULINE KEHOE, 69, IN JUNE INSTEAD OF ALLOWING THE OWNER TO FLY THE DOGS OUT OF THE U.S.TO BURMA
A Vermont Superior Court judge has ordered humane disposal ofTWO ROTTWEILERS that mauled a Milton woman on Eagle Mountain Harbor Road in June.
The decision came after a three-hour trial in civil court Wednesday, during which victim Pauline Kehoe, 69, testified the only proper consequence for the dogs is for them to be put down.
Judge Robert Mello agreed.
“This attack on Ms. Kehoe obviously was very severe indeed and raises alarms of concern as to what these dogs might be capable of in the future,” he said at the trial’s conclusion.
The dogs’ owner, Gretchen Kunze, brought the matter to court by way of appealing the Milton Selectboard’s order to euthanize the dogs by July 30. Municipalities can order vicious dogs be euthanized if an unprovoked attack occurs off the owners’ property and requires medical attention.
The dogs, Scooter and Clarence, were kenneled at Pinebrook in Milton while the issue played out in court.
The selectboard, and later the court, didn’t accept Kunze’s proposed alternative to transport the dogs to Burma, where she primarily lives due to her job, never to return them to Vermont. She also pledged to castrate them and remove their upper and lower canine teeth.
On the witness stand, Kehoe calmly recalled the attack at a parking area near her home on June 18. Kunze’s ex, John Bowes, was walking Scooter and Clarence when he stopped to talk to Kehoe and friend, Carol Ann Ostrander.
Without provocation, the dogs attacked, ripping at Kehoe’s neck, thighs, back and head.
“I remember thinking this wasn’t how I expected to die, and then I remembered thinking but if I didn’t die, it was going to hurt like hell,” Kehoe said on the stand.
And hurt it did, she testified. Hers and Ostrander’s screams woke Kehoe’s husband, Robert Devino, from sleep. A former Air Force policeman and current security officer, Devino wrapped his wife’s wounds and applied pressure for the half-hour it took for an ambulance to arrive.
“Her lips were turning a little blue,” he said, adding, “I wasn’t sure if she was going to bleed to death.”
Kehoe and Ostrander managed to tell him it was “the dogs” that attacked her.
“I knew immediately who they were talking about: The two Rottweilers up the road,” he said. “We were frightened of them like everybody else was.”
Court exhibits show the dogs are 110 and 115 pounds. Kehoe, who stands at 5’3”, testified they stand at her chest height and have large heads and strong jaws.Kehoe spent four days in the hospital, plus more after her hip wound got infected, and got 40 stitches. She can’t garden or kayak and had to cut her hair so she could style it due to nerve damage in her neck that limits her mobility.
Kehoe told town attorney Bob Fletcher she wouldn’t feel safe if the dogs returned. A dog lover and owner herself, Kehoe said euthanasia is the only sensible option.
“They’re big. They’re powerful,” she said. “They’ve already had a taste of me, and I would not want that for anyone else anywhere in the world.”
Skyping in from Burma, Kunze testified she’d already arranged for the dogs’ transport to Burma before the attack. She lost her deposit once she canceled the trip, she told her lawyer, Kevin Brown.
Kunze has had the dogs since they were puppies, and they’ve traveled wherever Kunze has worked, never acting aggressively to anyone. Kunze called the attack “shocking … quite surprising and terrible.”
“I have known these dogs for years, and I love them very much. They’ve been my house pets. They sleep on the bed and cuddle up and watch TV,” she said. “I understand the seriousness, but I do request that something else be done other than killing Clarence and Scooter.”
On cross-examination, town attorney Bob Fletcher questioned how Kunze, not a veterinarian, could testify that her proposed preventative measures would have any affect on the dogs’ demeanor.
“My answer is because I know the dogs,” she said.
Fletcher also asked about a settlement agreement Kunze and Bowes signed with neighbors Alan Gnessin and Andrea Merrick last summer after the rotties attacked the latter couple's dog, Henry. According to Merrick's sworn testimony, Scooter and Clarence charged across the neighbors' shared boundary completely at random, biting her dog.
The agreement stipulated one adult would never walk both dogs, a deal Bowes broke in June when he had both Scooter and Clarence leashed. Fletcher questioned how the court could believe Kunze's new promise not to return them to Vermont when she didn't keep her old one.
“Because I said they won’t,” Kunze replied.
In his closing statement, Fletcher called Kunze’s view of her pets “unwarranted and myopic.
“She believes that they can simply be transported away halfway across the world and they’d cease to pose any risk whatsoever,” he said. “There is nothing this court can do or that the town of Milton can do to keep these dogs from reentering the U.S.”
Brown countered, saying the incident was “a tragic aberration” of the dogs’ behavior, and because his client knows them best, her testimony should be “weighed heavily.” He said the court could easily enforce its order if Kunze brought the dogs back to Vermont.
“There is no risk from here on forward to the public that your honor has to concern himself with,” Brown said.
The judge disagreed, noting because Scooter and Clarence have already attacked two living beings without provocation, there’s “serious risk” it could happen again, in Vermont, Burma or elsewhere.
After the trial, Kehoe accepted hugs from her friends and relatives in the gallery. She said she was happy with the result since she would have immediately put her dogs down if they’d committed the same act.
“Their proposal is inhumane,” she said of Kunze’s alternative plan. “[Gretchen] has so invented the history of those dogs. They were never warm, fuzzy little creatures.”
Outside the courtroom, Brown declined comment on his client’s next steps.
The parties still must resolve who should pay Scooter and Clarence’s kennel bill. Brown’s latest request, filed the same day as the trial, asks the court to reverse the selectboard’s order that Kunze pay. As of the filing, she’s paid $3,240, or $40 a day for 81 days.